Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is a simply made but powerful German film (with English subtitles) about a young woman arrested for treason after distributing some anti-Nazi leaflets.  Don't expect a happy ending; the setting is Nazi Germany, where happy endings were few.  Nonetheless I recommend the movie highly.  Such depictions of goodness and heroism are rare—much less without resorting to graphic violence or sentimentalism.

Four things struck me in particular: (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 10:42 am | Edit
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I don't recall the era of the 1960s with fondness; it wasn't all bad, but it was a messy, unkind time that accelerated our culture's decline in the areas of civility and decent behavior.  However, there must be more of the 60s in my make-up than I thought:  I'm finding good reasons to distrust The Man.  :)

Just as the National Education Association adamantly opposes home education, the American Medical Association, unnerved, perhaps, by Ricki Lake's popular home birth movie, The Business of Being Born, has taken direct aim at home birth.*  Reaction against yet one more threat to personal freedom has come from across the political spectrum, from the far left to the far right.  Congratulations to the AMA for provoking agreement between pro-choice and pro-life groups.  Wink (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 28, 2008 at 4:53 pm | Edit
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In considering the Supreme Court's nullification of Louisiana's law that allows a death sentence for one convicted of raping a child, I asked, Shouldn't the question before the Court be, "Is there anything in the Constitution of the United States that prohibits the State of Louisiana from imposing this sentence?"

The Court's subsequent decision on the District of Columbia's ban on individual ownership of handguns addressed the issue in just that way:  Is there anything in the Constitution that prohibits the city from imposing such a law?  "Yes," they concluded— although the vote was shockingly close.  The Second Amendment confers a right to gun ownership that this law attempts to take away.  I applaud the decision, not because I like the idea of a gun in the hand of every irresponsible idiot, but because it was the right answer to the right question.  If our society has diverged so much from our origins that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" is no longer tenable, we, the people of the United States, have the right and power to take it away via a new Constitutional amendment. The Court's job is to examine the law in light of the Constitution as it stands

I have not taken the time to read the entire, lengthy decision, but even a cursory glance shows how critical to sound decision-making is a good understanding of not only law, but also history, grammar, linguistics, and above all logic.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 27, 2008 at 9:06 am | Edit
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In an earlier post on the Lisbon Treaty, I stated

[I]n the U.S. we have seen state laws gradually subsumed more and more by national regulation, so that fleeing to Pennsylvania from a repressive law in New York is not as easy as it once was.  I'm not saying this is always bad, but it can be, and bears watching.

I"m watching, and here's an example I saw today.  The U. S. Supreme Court has nullified a Louisiana law allowing for a sentence of the death penalty following conviction for the rape of a child under 12. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Edit
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We throw the term "witch hunt" around pretty loosely, but when it comes to child abuse accusations, apparently it's more accurate than not, at least in one Canadian city, where school officials reported sexual abuse of one of their students on the basis of a psychic's suggestion.  As Random Observations noted, the last time we accepted that kind of evidence in North America was during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

In this case, the child's mother was able to refute the accusation successfully, because the nature of her daughter's disability, combined with the fact that her elementary school had "lost" her several times, had prompted her to equip the girl with a GPS and a continuous audio monitor that provided clear evidence that the accusation was false.  How many other parents could have proven their innocence so easily?

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 21, 2008 at 1:53 pm | Edit
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A local man makes his living selling political propaganda, including campaign buttons.  Like a mercenary soldier, he plays all sides.  He feeds off bumper sticker philosophy, thumb-your-nose attitudes, and mocking humor.  It's not exactly the world's most useful occupation, certainly not among the more charitable.  But from the reaction to his "If Obama is president, will we still call it the White House?" button, you'd think Jonathan Alcox was a substantially lower form of life than drug pusher or Mafia don, just barely above child pornographer.

Barack Obama does not deny—indeed, he profits from—his partially African heritage.  I fail to see anything at all racist about that button; if being aware of someone's ancestry is racist, then we all are, including Obama's supporters, and the term has no meaning other than as an epithet to throw at our opponents when we run out of rational arguments.  If truth is no longer a defense, what hope have we for justice? (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 20, 2008 at 8:10 am | Edit
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In honor of Father's Day, I present an article that's a bit more challenging than my normal light fare.  It's from John Mauldin's InvestorsInsight financial newsletter, and is actually an excerpt from a book called A Roadmap For Troubling Times by Louis-Vincent Gave.  The article is The Problem with the Euro, and the excerpt begins a bit down the page, at "The Change in Policy."

It's heavy going, but one interesting thing I took from it, thanks to some help from my own Personal Economist (aka Porter) is this:  Countries, unlike people and businesses, don't go bankrupt—because they can always print more money.  Yes, that brings on inflation and a whole host of problems, but it keeps them in business.  However, this is no longer true of the countries of the European Union.  France, which is struggling under a national debt of 70% of its GDP, can no longer cover itself by printing more francs, since its present currency, the euro, is outside of its control.  Many other European countries are in similar straits. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 15, 2008 at 5:16 am | Edit
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Ireland's 3 million voters will decide on a document representing the 490 million people in the European Union.

You can look at it that way, and when you do, it sounds unfair that the success or failure of the Lisbon Treaty, which would create a new governing treaty for the European Union, should stand or fall based on what the Irish decide.  But so it is with democracy; in a close race, one person's vote can decide the fate of an entire country.  Not that it ever does, but it could.

I don't know enough to judge the Lisbon Treaty itself; it may be good or bad in the main, but I can say I am pleased that Ireland is standing by its own constitution, which requires that anything affecting the Irish constitution be decided by the Irish citizens themselves.  The Dutch and French people have already been railroaded by their own governments. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 13, 2008 at 6:48 am | Edit
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Thanks to John C. Wright for bringing to my attention Story Time by Andrew Klavan, in City Journal.

Read it. It may frustrate you, it may make you despair, it may inspire you; it will certainly break your heart.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

Let me write a nation's songs, and I care not who writes its laws. (various attributions)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 6, 2008 at 8:14 am | Edit
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I don't enjoy reporting bad news, really.  It makes me sound old and curmudgeonly.  Okay, so I am old and curmudgeonly, but that's beside the point.  So today I feature an exciting story from the Philadelphia Inquirer:  Midwife Diane Goslin has emerged victorious from a court case in which the State of Pennsylvania accused her of practicing medicine without a license by assisting at home births.  (See my previous post.)  The author of the article, Angela Couloumbis, and the headline writer who created the title, Birthing Women Win Legal Decision understand that this victory is not about one person's profession, but about one of our most basic freedoms:  choosing where and with whom we will give birth to our children.

I could point out that some of the rejoicing may be premature: the State is considering appealing the decision, and the court only dealt with the charge of practicing medicine, not with the problem that Pennsylvania is not among the 22 states in this country that recognize the Certified Professional Midwife license.  There is cause for joy, to be sure, but not for letting down our guard.  But we'll take our victories one at a time, and be thankful for daily bread even if we're not certain of next week's provision.

Anything less would be curmudgeonly.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 24, 2008 at 10:00 am | Edit
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I don't yet know how I'm voting in the upcoming presidential election, though I do know it will be a matter of the least objectionable candidate rather than some ringing endorsement. Frankly, I find them all objectionable; the question is, Who will do the least harm? So I'm not endorsing any candidate at this point, but as I've said before, Barack Obama scares me because he's so charismatic he might very well succeed in implementing some very dangerous policies.

Tim at Random Observations once again has a thoughtful post, this time on why Obama scares him. Check it out.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 23, 2008 at 10:03 am | Edit
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Today's NEHGS eNews includes the following lovely passage written on July 4, 1632 by New England Puritan leader John Winthrop. (The website version the eNews link will take you to is currently a few issues behind, but will eventually catch up to the one to which I refer, which is Vol. 10, No. 19).

I have much difficulty to keep John Galloppe here by reason his wife will not come [to the New England colony]. I marvel at the woman’s weakness that she will live miserably with her children there, when she might live comfortably here with her husband. I pray persuade and further her coming by all means: if she will come let her have the remainder of his wages, if not, let it be bestowed to bring over his children, for so he desires: it would be above £40 loss for him to come for her.

Say what you want about the difficulties of family separation, and the desirability of reunion, and I will agree with you.  But I marvel at the arrogance, duplicity, bullying, and blackmail from a leader who was loved and respected by so many.  (Actually, it reminds me of a modern-day religous leader some of us know. Let the reader understand.  Perhaps more strong, innovative leaders than we'd like to believe are a curious admixture of high intelligence, charismatic personality, stubborn will, and arrogant self-righteousness.)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 9:18 am | Edit
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It's easy to dismiss the Yearning for Zion Ranch as a collection of kooks, but even kooks have rights in this country, or should. Innocent chidlren, especially, should have their rights firmly protected, including the right not to be torn from their homes without clear and compelling evidence of immediate danger.  Yet the State of Texas has abused the children of the Yearning for Zion families in just that way, on the strength of one anonymous phone call accusing one man of abusing his 16-year-old wife.  Over 400 children were turned over to strangers, subjected to medical examinations, and even though there was no evidence of abuse have still not been allowed to return home.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (not to be confused with the "mainline" Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly called Mormons) certainly is bizarre, and if they are forcing people to marry against their wills (underage or not), if they are breaking the laws of Texas, they are in the wrong.  But living in an isolated community, wearing old-fashioned clothing, and teaching one's children that obedience is a godly virtue are not crimes, no matter how odd they might seem to mainstream America.  If the laws against underage marriage have been broken, let them be investigated and prosecuted with due process, not with hysteria and actions that will forever scar young lives.

"Laws against underage marriage."  Hmmm, I wonder where the activists are?  The ones who think it's so natural for children to have sex that they're pushing for condom distribution in middle schools?  The ones who insist 13-year-olds need access to abortions—without parental consent or even notification?  It's okay for young teens to be sexually active and have abortions, but not okay for them to marry and have children?  Now that's what I call a bizarre belief system!
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 at 12:47 pm | Edit
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Is it any wonder Americans are such poor money managers when you look at the behavior of our government? Or should I perhaps say that the other way around?

Only a few short years ago, the State of Florida was enjoying a large budget surplus, because tax revenues went through the roof thanks in part to all the rebuilding necessary after our four-hurricane year. Naturally (but stupidly), everyone clammored to spend the "excess." There were plenty of claimants for the money, but few indeed were the voices of reason, and they did not prevail. It should have been obvious to anyone with any sense at all that boom times don't last, and the years of plenty are when you put away your surplus to help you through the lean years.

Now the rebuilding is complete, and people are being more careful with their money, so Florida is hurting for sales tax revenue. Suddenly we are cutting programs, laying off public prosecutors, and—that whicih inspired this post—threatening to demolish the wonderful Road Ranger system that I wrote so enthusiastically about after I was stranded on the side of the highway, at night, in a non-functional car. If we had invested that surplus when we had it, we could be using it now to go along normally, and avoid the expense of restarted when economic conditions improve. Basic economics, Finance 101, just plain common sense.

Or not so common. God Himself had to teach Joseph this strategy, and then Pharaoh thought the idea so impressive he put Joseph in charge of the whole kingdom. But you'd think we'd have learned something from that story.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 4:10 pm | Edit
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It's true that Barack Obama scares me.  He has so much charisma that I'm afraid an Obama presidency would actually succeed in implementing his harmful agenda.  I'm not saying that Hilary Clinton's and John McCain's agenda's aren't harmful—just that I think they're less likely to succeed in bringing them to fruition.

Nonetheless, there's no point in making too much out of his regrettable comment that small-town Americans "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment" because they are bitter about their economic circumstances.  True, the remark is offensive, out of touch, and just plain wrong, and Obama didn't improve the situation with his attempt at recovery.  "I didn’t say it as well as I should have,” he admitted, but “I said something that everybody knows is true.” (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 7:06 am | Edit
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